Dr. James Cahill Abstract


Plants are useful, but boring. They feed us, provide us with building materials, and serve as ‘habitat’ for the more interesting and dynamic animals that live throughout the landscape. Who would go out and study plant movement and foraging? Where are the nature documentaries highlighting the complexity and diversity of plant behavior? Is the lack of public knowledge about the behavioral ecology of plants due to an actual lack of behavior expressed by plants?

Recent work in my lab, and others, suggest plants regularly display complex behaviors; including kin recognition, communication, active foraging strategies, and information integration. In this talk I will describe a breadth of behaviors exhibited by plants, with a particular focus on root foraging. Further, I will show have the behavioral patterns we find in plants are consistent with those predicted by existing theory on animal movement and behavior. In other words, though the proximate mechanisms by which plants and animals effect behavior are fundamentally different, the underlying causes and resulting patterns are not.